Authentic Pesto Genovese (Basil Pesto)

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Authentic Italian Pesto Genovese (Basil pesto) is a gloriously simple, fresh sauce that makes a delicious pasta sauce, condiment, or dip.

Try a twist on this classic: Fresh Arugula Walnut Pesto (vegan recipe)

spoonful of Best Authentic Pesto Genovese (Basil Pesto) over the bowl of fresh pesto. Parmigiano on the side.

Pesto! Pesto! Presto! Let’s make easy and authentic pesto, presto (soon)! This is our family’s authentic pesto recipe. As soon as all the ingredients come together, the smell is captivating and, for me, nostalgic. I could eat this by the spoonful!

 

I love pesto alla genovese (Italian basil pesto) on warm fresh bread, hot  pasta, sauce for green beans, or on top of vine ripe summer tomatoes and fresh mozzarella.

Authentic Italian style pesto is a thick, green sauce that tastes bright and herby from the basil, and salty and rich from the cheeses and pine nuts.

It should be garlicky (but not too much garlic to overpower the fresh basil), with a pleasant fresh taste from a good quality olive oil.

Homemade pesto is one of our family favorites! If you have loads of basil from your fresh basil plants, you need this simple recipe!

Simple Ingredients 

Simple ingredients for an easy sauce. 

basil pesto ingredients.

  • Fresh basil leaves
  • Extra virgin olive oil 
  • Garlic
  • Pine nuts
  • Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (fiore sardo- if you can find it)
  • Pecorino cheese (pecorino romano or pecorino sardo)
  • Sea salt 

Quantities in recipe card. 

How to Make Pesto Genovese

To make pesto the traditional way using a marble mortar and wooden pestle.

  1. Crush the garlic cloves using a mortar and pestle. Add the pine nuts and crush with the garlic. Gradually add the basil leaves, making a circular motion with the pestle, until a smooth paste forms. You can make it a little coarser if you prefer. 
  2. Using a wooden spoon, mix in the freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and pecorino Romano cheeses. Stir in the olive oil until the pesto is blended.

To save time, I use a blender or food processor to make my pesto. It is easy, and I find that more people have blenders than a mortar and pestle. Do as you please and what you have at home! The more important part is the right ratios and simple ingredients! 

Blender Method

Making pesto in a blender is easy!

how to make basil pesto- add basil to the blender.

TOP TIP: Freeze the blade! A trick to avoid the risk of the heat produced by the food processor spoiling the pesto flavor is best to put the removable parts of the processor or the blender in the freezer for 20 minutes before using it.

add the olive oil to the basil in the blender.

Place all ingredients at the same time (except pine nuts and parmigiano). In order to reduce the amount of time, the leaves are in contact with the blades (causing browning and spoiling flavor).

how to make basil pesto- add the pine nuts to the blender.

Pulse at the maximum speed; if you work fast, you’ll get a great pesto.

how to make basil pesto- add the cheese and garlic to the blender.

It’s helpful to stop the processor three or four times to scrape the pesto from the sides with a spatula.

how to make basil pesto- blend the ingredients until smooth.

Storage

How long does Pesto last in the fridge?

Store pesto in jars or airtight containers or sealed glass jars in the refrigerator for about one week.

I add a final layer of olive oil to seal the top and act as a natural sealer before putting a secure lid on top. 

transfer to a serving bowl.

Can you Freeze Pesto?

Yes! You can freeze homemade pesto. I like to freeze them in an ice tray. Start by placing pesto in clean ice cube tray containers and freezing them.

After a couple of hours, the pesto cubes will be frozen, pop them out and store them in a freezer-safe bag. You can keep the cubes in the freezer for up to 6 months.  Pesto may also be frozen in small jars or plastic containers for up to 9-12 months.

spoonful of Best Authentic Pesto Genovese (Basil Pesto) over the bowl of fresh pesto.

History of Pesto Genovese

Pesto is a sauce originating in Genoa, which is located in the northern region of Italy. It originated around the 16th century and traditionally consists of crushed garlic, basil, and pine nuts blended with Parmigiano or parmesean cheese and olive oil.

The Italian word pesto: pestare, means to pound, or to crush. Pesto was originally prepared with a marble mortar and wooden pestle. 

The ingredients were not exactly pounded or crushed, but they were incorporated by making a circular motion using the pestle in the mortar. Now, you can make pesto in many different ways using other tools, such as a blender. 

Basil pesto tossed with trofie pasta. Served with parmigiano on top.

 

Basil pesto tossed with trofie pasta. Served with parmigiano on top.

Serving Suggestion for Basil Pesto

Serve pesto with vine-ripe tomatoes and fresh mozzarella cheese. It will look like the Italian flag on a plate! It’s also great on sandwiches, panini and so much more!

From my Cucina to Your Table. Mangia! (Eat!)

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FAQ’s

How long does pesto last?

This easy Italian basil pesto Genovese sauce will last up to 5 days in the refrigerator if stored in an airtight container. The shelf life will be extended if you use the olive oil method shared above. See the full recipe post for freezing instructions.

Does pesto sauce need to be cooked?

Pesto should not be “cooked” or “baked.” Cooking pesto Sauce changes the makeup of the fresh basil and cheese, turning it darker in color. It is best at room temperature. If it needs to be thinned out, add a little warm water—even better—pasta water when making pesto pasta.

Can you freeze pesto with the cheese in it?

Yes! After incorporating all your ingredients, you can freeze pesto, even with the cheese, nuts, and garlic. Freezing pesto is really simple; it is just like making some ice cubes. It will last up to 3 months in an airtight container.

The most delicious and authentic Pesto Genovese recipe. If you make it and love it don’t forget to leave a review and star rating. I love to connect with all of you!

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Pesto Genovese

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5 from 6 reviews

Homemade pesto is a gloriously simple, fresh, and makes a superb pasta sauce, condiment, and dip. 

  • Total Time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: 12 servings 1x

Ingredients

Units Scale
  • 4 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and quartered
  • 4 packed cups sweet Italian basil, leaves picked, thick stems removed
  • 1/2 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil (add as needed if consistency is too thick)
  • 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, (Parmesan cheese), grated
  • 1/4 cup Pecorino Romano, grated

Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients in food processor, Vitamix, or blender* and blend until coarsely combined or smooth depending on preference.
  2. I like to add the pine nuts last so I can control how course I want the pesto. I generally prefer smooth pesto, but chunky/more coarse is great too. Stop 3-4 times to scrape sides with spatula.
  3. Transfer to small glass bowl with a lid or canning jar. Top with 1/2 inch olive oil and chill. The olive oil on top prevents browning of basil when it stays stored in the fridge.
  4. Enjoy with pasta*, on sandwiches, or as a dip!

Notes

*Instruction Tip: A trick to avoid the risk of the heat produced by the food processor spoiling the pesto flavor is best to put the removable parts of the processor or the blender in the freezer for 20 minutes before using it.

Also, in order to reduce the amount of time the leaves are in contact with the blades (causing browning and spoiling flavor) put all your ingredients in the food processor at once using the maximum speed; if you work fast, you’ll get a great pesto.

It’s helpful to stop the processor three or four times to scrape the pesto from the sides with a spatula.

**Serving Tip: To serve with pasta, combine with a few tablespoons of pasta cooking water so it will coat the pasta evenly.

  • Author: Elena Davis
  • Prep Time: 10 min
  • Category: Savory
  • Method: Italian
  • Cuisine: Italian

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About Elena

My dream is to share delicious wholesome recipes that you will share around the table with all your loved ones. The memories surrounded by food are the heart and soul of CucinaByElena.

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13 Comments

  1. Hi Elena, terrific tip on freezing the food processor blade! Never thought of that and I’ve made pesto so many time. Will try that. I use only Parmesan not the pecorino, but may have to try that too! I love to stir it into risotto, my fave dish in the world i make often. Who could live without pesto?

  2. This pesto sauce is so good!!! This recipe was a lot easier than I thought it would be to make pesto!






  3. This is a staple in our house. We love this pesto! It’s so easy and so delicious and everyone loves it.